The Latest: US strikes IS militants heading toward evacuees

AP News
Posted: Aug 30, 2017 11:47 AM
The Latest: US strikes IS militants heading toward evacuees

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian conflict and the war against the Islamic State group (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

The U.S.-led coalition says it has struck an Islamic State convoy coming from militant-held territory in Syria to meet IS evacuees being transferred there under a controversial deal brokered by Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group.

U.S. officials have criticized the transfer of hundreds of militants and civilians who are bound for an IS-held area near the Iraqi border, saying the extremists should be killed on the battlefield.

Col. Ryan Dillon says Wednesday's airstrike hit vehicles identified as belonging to IS that were traveling from IS-held territory toward the convoy.

Coalition officials say they are not bound by the evacuation agreement and may strike the evacuees themselves. An earlier coalition airstrike destroyed a small bridge and cratered a road, hindering the movement of the evacuees.

There are about 300 militants and almost as many family members on buses being evacuated under the deal, which ended the IS presence along the Lebanon-Syria border.


4:45 p.m.

A U.S. official says the coalition is monitoring a convoy of Islamic State fighters who were evacuated from the Lebanon-Syria border toward an area near Iraq under a controversial agreement and may strike the militants.

Col. Ryan Dillan, a spokesman for the U.S.-led alliance against the militants, says "we are monitoring their location in real time." He says the coalition "will not rule out strikes against IS fighters being moved."

He says the coalition has already bombed a small bridge to obstruct the convoy.

Syrian opposition activists say the convoy, which left the Lebanon-Syria border on Tuesday, is still in government-controlled territory in eastern Syria.

The IS militants were allowed to evacuate in buses following a Hezbollah-negotiated deal that allows them to go to IS-held territory near the Iraqi border.

Dillan said "we are not party to any agreements that were made by the Lebanese Hezbollah and ISIS or the (Syrian) regime." ISIS is another acronym for the Islamic State group.


12:45 p.m.

A U.S. official has blasted a deal that led to the evacuation of hundreds of Islamic State group fighters and civilians from the Lebanon-Syria border to areas close to Iraq, saying the extremists should be killed on the battlefield.

The evacuation agreement, the first such publicized deal, had already angered many Iraqis who accused Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah of dumping the militants on the Iraqi border rather than eradicating them.

The top U.S. envoy for the international coalition against IS, Brett McGurk, tweeted on Wednesday that it is "irreconcilable" that IS "terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across #Syria to the Iraqi border without #Iraq's consent."

McGurk added that the anti-IS coalition will help ensure that "these terrorists can never" enter Iraq.